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Video: The Power of Community and Hike-a-Thon at Access Living

Posted by ATripp at Aug 24, 2016 05:20 PM |
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Hike-A-Thon has opened up a whole new community for 20 individuals receiving services and several staff at Access Living. The staff created a short video to capture their excitement about trails.

by Emily Shiels and Karen Blanquart of Access Living

When most people think about why they enjoy a hobby, they focus on the activity itself and not on the culture and community built through that hobby. Even if you do your hobby by yourself, like solo hiking or model airplane building, you’re still part of a bigger community of other enthusiasts.

So let’s go further.

Community: a feeling of fellowship and a sense of purpose

We often don’t think about the deeper and more emotional reasons we all need to be connected and involved in our community. Community isn’t just sharing an interest or having something in common with a group of people; it’s a feeling of fellowship and a sense of purpose that can bring meaning to life and bring people closer together.

Supported living is a residential service for adults experiencing developmental disabilities. Access Living is a supported living agency in Bellingham, and my co-author, Karen, and I have been administrative staff for three years here. Every person who participates in our program lives or owns their own home, and we provide and train staff to support the person with their needs, hopes, dreams, and goals. We provide individualized support hours ranging from 2 hours a week to 24 hours a day as needed so clients can live as independently as they can. We encourage independence through power and choice, status building, relationships, and inclusivity with their broader community.

During our time with Access Living, we have had the opportunity to truly see how people thrive when they feel connected to their community whether it be through volunteering with a community outreach, getting their dream job of working at an office, dancing with friends at a summer concert in the park, or tackling a hill around a lake trail that once seemed impossible.

The sense of contribution, self-confidence, and joy from genuine community inclusion cannot be replicated by any pill or treatment. Connection is a powerful catalyst for finding purpose and reaching goals beyond expectations. This notion goes for all people, not just those involved in a supported living program.

Trails connect in more ways than one

Washington Trails Association’s Hike-A-Thon is a perfect example of this genuine community inclusion. The trails physically connect our state and the act of traveling along them for the cause of fundraising (or simply the enjoyment of the outdoors) connects us with each other. We share that connection through posting photos on the Hike-A-Thon Facebook page, writing trip reports, and sharing our adventure stories with other people outside of the WTA and hiking community. Regardless of how many miles we hike or how steep the elevation, we serve a purpose. We are connected and we are valued.

Hike-A-Thon has opened up a whole new community for 20 individuals receiving our services and several of our staff. We created a short video (above) to capture their excitement about the Hike-A-Thon, the trails, and the benefits they gain from part of the community.

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